Circus Symposium: Philip Astley and the legacy of modern circus

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Manchester Metropolitan University, Cheshire Campus in Crewe

Crewe Green Road



United Kingdom

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The main objective of the Circus Symposium: Philip Astley and the Legacy of Modern Circus, organised by Manchester Metropolitan University’s Cheshire Campus, is to bring together researchers and artists in order to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the founding of Modern Circus by Philip Astley (1742 – 1814), who was born in Newcastle-under-Lyme, United Kingdom. The event will offer delegates the opportunity to reflect on Astley’s legacy from a contemporary and scholarly perspective and experience a range of workshops and masterclasses.

A range of activities are already taking place locally, such as the Philip Astley Project in Newcastle-under-Lyme. This symposium will contribute to these celebrations, and offer a timely reappraisal of the importance of Astley and his lasting artistic legacy.

The entertainment industry commenced with Modern Circus, when Philip Astley fused horse riding with acrobatics in a circular space around 1768. This innovation developed further between the Victorian period and the present day, and the aim of the symposium will be to chart these transformations and map out the contemporary legacy of circus today in the arts.

The aims of the event are:

  1. To contribute to artistic and scholarly research on the Cheshire Campus;
  2. To foster the development of an international network of scholars and artists with a focus on the legacy of circus and popular culture in theatre and the performing arts;
  3. To bring together artists and researchers interested in circus skills and their historical development;
  4. To promote academic and artistic exchange locally, nationally and internationally;
  5. To bring British and international universities together to develop collaborative research projects on Modern Circus;
  6. To produce scholarly material with a focus on Modern Circus.

We believe that this event will be an opportunity to contribute to a fruitful environment for scholarly and artistic research on the Cheshire campus throughout 2017!

This symposium is being held as a free event. Refreshments will be provided during the morning and afternoon sessions. Catering outlets will be available on campus during lunchtime.

For further information on this event, including a timetable of talks and workshops, please visit:

Or contact:

Professor Eliene Benício Amancio Costa -

Dr Patrick Campbell –


Day 1 - Tuesday 26th September

• 9.00 - 9.30am – Registration (Open Space)

• 9.30 - 10am – Opening of the Symposium with Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Christine Horrocks, Professor Eliene Benício and Dr. Patrick Campbell

• 10.00 - 10.45am – Keynote address What is Circus? Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Founder and Research Professor at the National Fairground and Circus Archive and Director of City and Culture for the University of Sheffield.

• 10.45 - 11.00am – Question & Answer session

• 11.00 - 11.15am – COFFEE

• 11.15 - 12.00pm – Lecture Demonstration To Ask the Mask: Towards an Anthropology of the Commedia dell’Arte. Professor Roberto Cuppone, University of Genoa, Italy.

• 12.00 - 12.15pm – Question & Answer session

• 12.15 - 1.15pm – Roll up! Roll Up! Theresa Heskins, Artistic Director of the New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme; and Andrew Van Buren, specialist in Phillip Astley and illusionist.

• 1.00 - 1.15pm – Question & Answer session

• 1.15 - 2pm – LUNCH

• 2.30 - 5.30pm – Workshops

Cheshire Contemporary Arts - room CCA 0-17 and CCA 0-24

Andrew Van Buren – Circus skills / show business workshop

Fabio Dall Gallo – Circus games – object manipulation

• 5.30 - 6.00pm – COFFEE

• 6.00 - 9.00pm – Masterclass

Centre for Contemporary Arts - room CCA 0-17

I’m Fa(i)ling: Clowning technique and the poetics of failure. Masterclass in Clown with Dr Richard Talbot, University of Salford, specialist in contemporary clown and comedy acting.

Day 2 - Wednesday 27th September

• 9.00 - 10.00am – Keynote address Circus Astley in Brazil. Professor Mario Bolognesi, State University of Sao Paulo, specialist in clowns.

• 10.00 - 10.15am – Question & Answer session

• 10.15 - 10.30am – COFFEE

• 10.30 - 11.15am – Speaking, Intervening: Other ways of making and thinking drama and language teaching in the University. Graça dos Santos, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, director the Parfums de Lisbonne – Festival.

• 11.15 - 11.30am – Question & Answer session

• 11.30 - 12.15pm – From the Pool to the Crystal Tank and the Circus Ring: Female natationists in the Victorian period. Professor Dave Day, Manchester Metropolitan University, specialist in Victorian Leisure and Sport.

• 12.15 - 1.00pm – Question & Answer session

• 1.00 - 2.00pm – LUNCH

• 2.00 - 5.00pm – Workshops

Cheshire Contemporary Arts - room CCA 0-17 and marquee tent

Andrew Van Buren – Circus skills / show business workshop

Fabio Dall Gallo – Circus games – object manipulation

Room: Meeting Room in College House

(In parallel, from 2-5pm we shall hold a meeting with University delegates in order to discuss possibilities for Memorandums of Understanding and future partnerships).

• 5.00 - 5.30pm – Closing of the Symposium

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Manchester Metropolitan University, Cheshire Campus in Crewe

Crewe Green Road



United Kingdom

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